Didier Drogba is facing a wildly warm and enthusiastic welcome when he arrives at Shanghai’s Pudong airport on Saturday morning.
In stark contrast to Nicolas Anelka’s unannounced low-key arrival through the VIP gate, Shenhua have not only released the full details of Drogba’s flight, they are also encouraging as many fans as possible to make the trip out to the airport, which lies some 29km from the city centre.
Drogba will be flying in on British Airways flight BA 169 (track it here) which arrives at Pudong terminal 2 at 7.55am on Sunday morning. He was initally reported by Chinese media to be arriving on a slightly earlier Air France flight, but the latest word is that his agents will be on this plane and rendevous with him at Pudong.
Shenhua official spokesman Ma Yue told local media the club’s plan for the day was to “pack out Pudong in the morning, and pack out Hongkou Stadium in the evening”
He also revealed that Drogba would most likely enter the arrivals lounge through the public exit, rather than the VIP one, as Anelka did.
Ma said, “As long as fans can keep order, Drogba will come through the public exit. This is just a welcome for him at the airport, we don’t want anyone scrambling to get autographs and pictures, there may be chances for that later on.
Ma added, “As much as possible we will arrange a large group photo of Drogba at the arrivals hall with the fans.”
On the social networks, fans fervently discussed the logics of getting to Pudong Airport at such a relatively early hour, as Drogba fever started to sweep the city.
Shenhua fans have given extremely warm welcomes to foreign players and managers in the past. Just before this season started, Joel Griffiths and Jean Tigana were both given the heroes welcome treatment, being mobbed at Pudong Airport on their arrival to start life with their new club.
Drogba will appear at Hongkou stadium for Saturday’s China Derby against old rivals Beijing before kick off to greet the fans. But he will not play.
The Ivorian international is due to make his debut for Shenhua in the CFA cup against Changchun on July 18.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015